Generals are winning, politicians losing - Farrukh Saleem - Monday, August 23, 2010

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ISLAMABAD: More than 20 million Pakistanis, nearly 12 percent of the entire population, are suffering. More than 160,000 square kilometres, or 20 percent of Pakistan’s landmass, are inundated. A million homes have been destroyed or damaged. Of the 50 million acres of cultivable area no less than 20 percent or 10 million acres of standing crops — cotton, rice and sugarcane — has been lost or severely damaged.

One out of every eight Pakistanis is at risk of severe diarrhoea, asthmatic attacks, dysentery, meningitis, hepatitis, skin diseases or a whole host of food and waterborne diseases. But, politics will be politics. Practical politics, perhaps, means ignoring facts. Within the PPP, the president and the prime minister are playing their own politics. The PM commits to a ‘clean commission’ but the president shoots it down. In Punjab, PPP and PML-N are playing their own politics. Pakistan’s right is way ahead of the left in bailing out drowning children and comforting battered souls. At the international front, America is playing its own politics by giving and then advertising that Uncle Sam has given much more than has China or Iran combined. EU is playing its own politics by sending confusing signals of giving us trade breaks. India also wants to win a billion political miles by pledging a paltry $5 million.

At the camps, a battle for survival is raging like never before. Ten million Pakistanis need bread to continue to breathe; five million need shelter to hide and at least ten thousand diarrhea treatment centers. Domestic resource availability can sustain no more than a million hungry. Domestic response capacity is next to nothing. Foreign money isn’t coming. Corruption, inefficiency, donor fatigue and an unpopular presidency are all playing villains.

While one-fifth of Pakistan drowns under water, Karachi, its financial hub, is cloaking itself under a bloody deluge. As MQM and ANP fight out their own bloodstained politics Pakistani Taliban are wining without even fighting.

Economy was sick to begin with now it’s severely anemic. Pakistan being unable to carry oxygen from its lungs to its tissues the IMF will now play its own politics. We are bound to miss IMF targets and structural reforms will now take a back seat. Rural unemployment and unprecedented inflation will be followed by widespread social unrest and crime.

On a much broader canvass, generals of Pak Army are winning ‘hearts and minds’ and thus capturing more and more of the Pakistani political space—all at the cost of the political class. Pak Air Force has diverted 5 C-130Bs and 7 C-130Es, its tactical transport aircraft, for picking and delivering flood relief to wherever it’s needed the most. Pak Navy’s boats are speeding through floodwaters delivering food and saving survivors still floating just above the water level. Right is winning by doing while the left talks. Generals are also winning by doing while politicians talk. Would the khakis take over? Answer: They did that several months ago.

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